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Public bids: food for thought and \"call to arms\"
Thread poster: Werner George Patels, M.A., C.Tran.(ATIO)
Werner George Patels, M.A., C.Tran.(ATIO)
Local time: 20:12
German to English
+ ...
Nov 29, 2001

When you want to outsource a job, ProZ gives you three options: public bids, private bids and \"contact outsourcer\".



Going by a number of messages posted to the forums as well as tons of e-mails and phone calls I have received in support of my previous postings, it is really a no-brainer that public bids are the true \"evil\".



What kind of outsourcer uses public bids? Clearly those that are not interested in quality, but merely in driving rates down so that they can pick the cheapest bidder (\"cheapest\" in every respect of the word). I suggest, therefore, that we boycott any and all public bids: let\'s separate the chaff from the wheat - let only the \"chaff\" bid on public postings. That will, eventually, teach those outsourcers a lesson.



When looking at recent public bids, two things become apparent: a) rates hover around 4 or 5 cents and b) the number of \"real translators\" placing bids is infinitesimally small by now. So, any outsourcer who is looking for quality will be heavily disappointed: for example, out of 100 bids received, the outsourcer will find, at most, only 2 to 5 professional and quality-oriented translators, regardless of the rates offered.



The quality of the job postings has clearly deteriorated over the last 4-5 months at a breakneck speed. I get all my assignments through other sources now: my own website, Yellow Pages, through the various professional associations I am a member of (and they account for at least 80% of my jobs!), word-of-mouth, through my own network, etc.



I don\'t know what ProZ\'s plans are exactly - Henry made some good points in his newsletter, but in some respects he remained quite cryptic. So, it may be that public bids will soon be a thing of the past, but let\'s not wait for that: let\'s boycott them now.


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edlih_be
Local time: 02:12
Flemish to English
+ ...
Can everyone afford to do this? Nov 29, 2001

Surely you cannot expect people not to bid. Although it is a novel idea, in practice I do not think it will work.



I agree that in the long-run it will benefit serious translators, but when people need to have an income to pay the bills, the rent etc. they cannot afford not to bid.



Unless of course, you intend to make up for potential earnings that are foregone.


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Telesforo Fernandez
Local time: 05:42
English to Spanish
+ ...
You couldn't say it better Nov 29, 2001

Werner,

You couldn’t have said it better. I appreciate your bold initiative in engaging the concerned people to eradicate

this malaise of bidding.



You talk about public bidding. What about private bidding? Who knows what, possibly, lies hidden, when the open is so hurting.



Enough has been written and expressed in the forum pages about falling rates, cheap translations, non-paying agencies, poor quality of translations, attempts to get whole page translated, getting translations done via sample translations, using term question route to get translations done, perhaps, by incompetent translators.



The fraternity of translators on this site I suppose comprises doctors, engineers, lawyers, PhDs, MBAs, scientists, specialists, accountants, attorneys, journalists, research scientists, writers, editors, journalists, nuclear scientists, and specialists in every conceivable profession and field.



So this is a potentially proactive and intelligent community –

You can’t, possibly, take these people for granted. They are, probbly, waiting for the cup to overflow.



This bidding – whether open or private – without any transparency and full scrutiny could possibly be viewed very seriously by this large community of translators.



I hope something more acceptable, equitable and reasonably transparent will be done to stop the downfall of the this translation profession.

One must protect the interest of the site as well of the translators.





[ This Message was edited by: on 2001-12-01 05:37 ]


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Werner George Patels, M.A., C.Tran.(ATIO)
Local time: 20:12
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I was referring to public bidding only Nov 29, 2001

I don\'t have anything against closed bidding: an outsourcer who clicks on that option will, statistically, be more likely to be concerned with qualifications, experience, etc. than with the rate.



It has been said in these forums and elsewhere many times before: an agency issuing a call for résumés that states \"rates\" as the first (and almost overriding) requirement (rather than experience, samples, references, etc.) is one that should not be taken too seriously.



This makes sense: if you need to outsource a translation (been there, done that), and your own reputation depends on it, you will focus primarily on the qualifications and experience of the prospective translators; the rate issue will be of secondary or even tertiary concern - to a reliable outsourcer anyway.



To edlih_be: people can still bid on closed-bidding jobs, and those concerned with quality will do so; the others, whoever they may be and for whatever reason, can do whatever they want: I am a \"wheat guy\"; I don\'t deal with the \"chaff\".


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Werner George Patels, M.A., C.Tran.(ATIO)
Local time: 20:12
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Reply to Telesforo Nov 29, 2001

Yes, the ProZ community comprises some fine people: doctors, lawyers, scientists, ... and even professional translators .



But that makes me wonder even more why so many of them stay silent on issues of great importance to them (or even do everything possible to shoot themselves in the foot again and again).



As I said in another thread yesterday: some people exhibit a tremendous lack of professional smarts even though you would not expect it judging from their backgrounds, profiles and qualifications.


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Ursula Peter-Czichi  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:12
German to English
+ ...
Public or Private Bidding: Prices Are Too Low! Nov 29, 2001

It took some time, but finally I calculated my minimum rates for different types of jobs. No matter what, I will stick to it. Today, another request for bids (closed) appeared on ProZ. They were looking for translators with special knowledge in medical terminology and offered US$0.04!! (I bid and made a counter offer: US$0.10)



If ProZ is by translators for translators, then let\'s have a minimum offer, such as US$0.08/source word, $0.10 for technical translations. People with a lot of expertise should not consider working for minimum wage. A new translator would just need more time for the translation than an experienced one. The translations should be acceptable at any rate.

By the way, viewing public bids, I see plenty of very qualified people (translators whose answers I appreciate in the KudoZ section) bid very low.

I think translators should find ways to help themselves and each other. Let\'s have a translator\'s corner on ProZ, honestly and openly listing agencies to work with, avenues to take and how to bid on this site, what to accept and what not. Many of these problems would not exist, if more assistance would be offered to newer members.


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Franck Abate  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:12
English to French
+ ...
don't bother trying to match low bidders Nov 29, 2001

As professional translators, we should realize that there comes a point when getting the job at whatever low rate ends up being more headache and expense than it is worth. Rates such as 0.04/word for translation are not worth my time, even for a large volume. The time that you spend working at such a rate might be more profitable if spent at Mc Donald\'s flipping burgers, considering your day-to-day expenses and yearly overhead (software purchases, etc.), self employment and income taxes taxes as a translator.

When I bid, I do it with my regular rates. Whether the bids are public or not, it doesn\'t make much difference to me because I don\'t get in the little game of trying to match/beat the cheapest guys out there. It\'s partly why (I suspect) I have not gotten one single job offer from the site, but I remain optimistic that some bargain hunters out there are only interested in price (and I will never work for them because of my rates) and more serious clients or agencies are actually looking for good value and talent/experience (where I may actually have a chance). It\'s up to us to define in which category we want to be considered.


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Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:12
Member (2004)
English to Italian
Wild West... or East for that matter... Nov 30, 2001

I think this topic reinforces my feeling about the necessity of a professional body for translators. If you don\'t belong to it, you cannot call yourself \"translator\". Before you can apply to become a member of the body, you get your university degree (translation degree)and then undergo a 3/5 year specialization course. Our profession, as it is, is totally unregulated and, as far as I am concerned, equals to the Wild West. At the moment, anybody can charge what he/she likes. There are no rules... this is obviously ok for translators living in less affluent countries, but this freedom is damaging the status of our profession. The solution therefore isn\'t to tell translators to charge more, but to allow them to charge more by letting them become a true, qualified and professional translator, who can be proud of his/her profession and doesn\'t have to humiliate himself/herself by charging poverty line rates.



Giovanni


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Sharon Sarah Schmitz  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 02:12
English to German
The world doesn't revolve around bidding on ProZ Nov 30, 2001

And if it does...well, then forget about translating altogether.



This isn\'t specifically aimed at low rates, but more at the fact that the number of jobs offered really doesn\'t justify all the fuss about professional bodies for translators, membership requiring a university degree and 3 to 5 years of additional training.



C\'mon, applying such regulations would mean that you can\'t \"practice\" on your own before you are 30 of age. That\'s simply unrealistic given today\'s job market demands.



Again: Shutting out competition by pushing an agenda leads nowhere. I strongly disagree with the openly displayed elitist notions connected to the whole matter.



The key to success lies in refining your marketing skills. You absolutely need to be able to clearly point out why your services are the client\'s best choice and why they come at a price.



Regarding this, most bids fail to make it. I\'m amazed at how uninspired, sloppy and (sometimes) off the mark many bidders offer their services. If I was to post a job, a standard tagline shouting \"12 years in the translation business\" or \"Always on time\" would by default put a bid in the garbage can.



Why not tailor taglines and bid texts to the client\'s job offer, showing that you are willing and able to put distinct efforts into the translation itself? If your bid alone shows that you don\'t care about the topic, why should an outsourcer hire you?



Be witty and clever, distinguish yourself from the rest of the pack, hint towards your abilities by incorporating and taking up every single bit of info you can lay your hands on. In the long run, this will earn you a professional reputation connected to your name rather than to an anonymous lobby.



Translators are neither doctors nor lawyers. A bad translation may be harmful to a certain extent, but normally it doesn\'t kill you on the operating table or sends you to the chair. Hmm, which in effect turns out to be the same


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Telesforo Fernandez
Local time: 05:42
English to Spanish
+ ...
You are right Goivani Nov 30, 2001

Giovani,

I agrre with your point of view.

You said

\"The solution therefore isn\'t to tell translators to charge more, but to allow them to charge more by letting them become a true, qualified and professional translator, who can be proud of his/her profession and doesn\'t have to humiliate himself/herself by charging poverty line rates. \"



And with this firm resolution where does the translator go to sell his wares?

Probably, on a site , other than Proz.com





[ This Message was edited by: on 2001-11-30 04:00 ]


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Ralf Lemster  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 02:12
English to German
+ ...
Spot on, Sharon... Nov 30, 2001

...your contribution highlighted a core issue: this is not about East-vs.-West or \"my diploma is better than your expertise\", but simply about a free market, where your capability of distinguishing yourself from your competitors is a major driver of your success, economic or otherwise. All the suggestions I have seen (be it minimum rates or mandatory exam, diploma, etc.) will serve to turn this site from a meritocracy into a bureaucracy.

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Werner George Patels, M.A., C.Tran.(ATIO)
Local time: 20:12
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Strongly disagree Nov 30, 2001

Saying things like translators should not be regulated is like saying that just about anyone should be allowed to practise law or medicine or work as a family counsellor, etc.



This is not directed at anyone personally, but it has been my experience that it is always those that scream the loudest against regulation and associations that would not hack it otherwise.



I strongly believe that if you are talented, it should be no problem for you to meet all the admission requirements. Otherwise, find something else to do.



I also know that our profession, sadly, will never be regulated in the same way as the legal and medical professions are, but we need some degree of regulation (at a minimum, as regards the right to practise).



Sharon:



You are so wrong: translators and interpreters can do a lot of harm: interpreters could literally start a war, hospital interpreters could kill patients, translators could cost their clients a $1-million contract, … . Sometimes, the damage does not have to be that big, but take an immigrant, for example, who needs his papers translated so that he can file his application in time. Here in Canada, for instance, his process could be delayed by a year or more if his papers are not in order. If you fail in your professional duties (eg, you don’t deliver your translation on time or your translation is flawed), this could have severe repercussions for that poor applicant (emotional stress, the economic hardship of being in a state of limbo for a year, not knowing whether he’ll be allowed to immigrate, etc.).



Why, my “learned friend”, do you think there is such a high demand for professional liability insurance??? Because we CAN do a lot of damage.



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Sharon Sarah Schmitz  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 02:12
English to German
Could Nov 30, 2001

Translators and interpreters could



- Start Wars

- Kill Patients

- Screw Up a Million Dollar Contract

- Trap an Immigrant in the Web of Bureaucracy



Right. They could.



Now I\'d like to see an actual example on each of the above. Quacks killing patients, lawyers either failing to protect the innocent or succeeding to free the guilty are not that uncommon, as we all know.



Werner, you perfectly well know that\'s bogus arguments. If I go shopping, a brick could hit me on the head.



You say that those who scream loudest against regulations are those afraid of failing to make the grade. As I scream against the kind of overblown regulations you propose, I feel inclined to take your remark personal. As stated in my profile, I lack any of the paperwork you deem so desirable. I\'m sorry that my future professional activities weren\'t all that clear to me at age 19, so I didn\'t walk a straight path, but instead went for variety.



Why do you scream so loud for regulations? Applying your own theory, this might lead to the assumption that you\'re afraid of competition.



Low rates were at the core of this whole discussion. Now, all of a sudden, quality comes into view. And this is exactly what a professional body will not guarantee. As stated earlier, lobbies aren\'t interested in quality. Once you\'ve joined the circle, you pretty much have a free ride.



Creating still more bureaucratic overhead? Thanks, but no thanks.



I\'m not advocating libertarianism, but a healthy dose of competition has proven to be the best control mechanism for a free market. Bureaucracy kills.


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Werner George Patels, M.A., C.Tran.(ATIO)
Local time: 20:12
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Reply Dec 1, 2001

Lawyers have bar associations, and they still have competition. So, associations and regulations do not necessarily kill competition.



As I pointed out, I am realistic enough to know that we will never have that kind of system (but one can dream, right?).



The problem with \"translators\" acting outside of regulatory bodies is that, this way, they are not bound by any professional rules of ethics (and they DO take advantage of that).



In Canada, one of the reasons why at least 90% of all clients demand a certified translator is that they can rely on the professional standards and ethics of such a translator (and that includes issues of confidentiality). With some black/grey-market translator, this is not always the case.



Age is not an excuse: I know many people who decide to go to law school (or even medical school) at the age of 40 or 50. And they still manage to complete all the requirements.



I \"scream\" because I (and many others, but, apparently, not you) see that there are serious problems in our profession all over the world. Putting on rose-tinted glasses does not help - this is why the profession is in the state it is in right now.



The list of problems is, indeed, very long, and payment is just one of many. But most of these problems are caused by those that \"infiltrate\" our profession without any qualifications whatsoever (and when I say qualifications, I refer to every possible piece of credential that is available, including one-on-one mentoring programs) and then start undermining it from within.



How would you have liked it, Sharon, if I had walked into your bookstore and ripped up all the books in there?



Don\'t get me wrong, Sharon: I am not saying that you are a \"bad infiltrator\", but, yes, you are an \"infiltrator\" inasmuch as you \"stumbled\" into our \"world\". And given your style and way with words, I am quite confident that the \"school of life\" has been good for you and prepared you well for being a translator. But slip into the shoes of the client for a moment, will you?



If I look at your profile, and I am one of those clients that have never hired a translator before, I will probably skip you and move on to someone who actually states that they have all their proper credentials. After all, I may be concerned about confidentiality, reliability, quality, etc.



The thing is: when an official translator screws up, you can always go to the regulatory and certifying body in question and cause a lot of problems for that person. With a black/grey-market translator, you can\'t (short of filing a civil suit).



Sharon, I do appreciate your being part of our profession, but your comments \"fired from the hip\" only serve to undermine the profession even further. If you are serious about moving from the \"kids\' table\" to the \"grown-up table\", you should show some interest in establishing and upholding certain industry standards (and every industry has standards - it goes against common sense that ours should be the only one without any standards or rules at all; that\'s just plain crazy, stupid and self-destructive).



Unless all of us show more respect for their chosen profession (no matter how they got into it), we will continue to have problems with clients and agencies.



On a personal note: why are you so hung up on the word \"could\"? You yourself raised this issue (a lawyer could send someone to the chair, a doctor could kill a patient) - or are you trying to tell us that all lawyers and doctors kill people routinely So, it is not a matter of \"could\" for them Gee, I hope not!



We, as translators, have as many chances to screw up as any lawyer or doctor.

[ This Message was edited by: on 2001-12-01 12:00 ]


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Greta Holmer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:12
Dutch to English
+ ...
Professional translation qualifications Dec 1, 2001

I am a bit disconcerted by the apparent total faith that is put into professional qualifications and professional bodies in this forum.

Firstly there are professional bodies such as the IOL and ITI which may be joined as a translator and which may then be cited as a mark of quality.

Secondly, I am sure many people who study translation/interpretation are very well qualified and do good jobs however I have met many of the above and worked with them and find their general knowledge is usually lacking and they become bogged down in the theory of translation - also in many countries people study translation/interpretation into languages which are not their own. These are the most pernicious of all types of translator. They HAVE a professional qualification which lulls clients into a false sense of security but IN FACT their linguisitic knowledge is inadequate for translating into a non-native language.

Thirdly, why would it be necessary for each individual to study at university for 3-5 years in order to qualify as a translator?

This is NOT necessary for Lawyers or nurses in many countries - it is possible to enter law and nursing through these routes but it is equally possible to work your way up from the grass-roots - starting as a legal secretary and working your way up to become a solicitor or starting as an orderly and gaining experience and qualifications along the way. Are these nurses and solicitors necessarily worse than snotty-nosed young graduates who jump right in and think they know everything? Why should this not be possible for translators?

Placing such importance on paper qualifications unnecesarily excludes many very able and talented translators.



Finally, coming back to the point about public bids I have found public bids a useful tool for finding out what is expected as I am new to proz. However, I didn\'t check other people\'s prices and was more interested in what kind of things they said with regard to experience, deadlines etc. There is no way I would enter into a price-war with people from cheaper parts of the world where taxes are lower (USA for example) - it is simply not worth it. I am not so fond of translation that I want to be tied to my computer constantly doing work for a pittance. As it is I spend an average of 12 hours a day translating including most weekends!

Aren\'t there more important things to think about than whether or not it is worth boycotting public bids? These extremely passionate arguments seem to indicate either a lack of self-confidence or a fear of competition. Isn\'t there such a thing as a free market? Not to mention caveat emptor - surely it should be down to the client to decide what risks he/she wants to take in relation to price/quality. If the client\'s overriding concern is price - and this is not always some underhand way of driving prices down - why should the translator drive the price up unnecessarily? There are laws against price-setting in trade (or at least there are over here) - see the recent legal cases against CD manufacturers, petrol suppliers, supermarket chains.

I do a lot of pro bono work for various charities am I then somehow a \'cheap translator in every sense of the word\' because I do not squeeze them for every penny they have?















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